Roswell (rŏzˈwĕl) [key], city (1990 pop. 44,654), seat of Chaves co., SE N.Mex., near the Pecos River; settled 1869 as a trading post, inc. 1903. It is the trade, marketing, and rail center of an irrigated farm area. Foods and beverages, fireworks, clothing, pipes, concrete, and motor vehicles are manufactured. The city grew rapidly after the discovery (1891) of artesian wells, with the coming (1894) of the railroad, and with the later discovery of oil. Since the late 1940s the area has become a magnet for believers in UFOs, who maintain that extraterrestrials crashed there and the U.S. government covered it up; the presence nearby of a secret Air Force test site undoubtedly fueled the rumors. A 1997 Air Force report attempted to show that the sightings had earthly causes. Nearby are Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Lincoln National Forest, and the ranch of John S. Chisum, the 19th-century cattleman.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.